Relative hearing

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Relative hearing describes a person's ability to identify or reproduce a tone using a reference tone, using the interval between the reference and target tone. Relative hearing is much more common than absolute hearing , which only occurs in one in a thousand people. Relative hearing requires some or all of the following skills:

  • The distance between a tone and a given reference tone can be determined (e.g. "three octaves above C").
  • Intervals between given tones can be identified regardless of their relation to the concert pitch A.
  • A melody can be sung correctly according to its notation by producing each note of the melody in the corresponding interval to the previous note. Alternatively, while listening to an unknown melody, this ability allows the notes to be named in relation to a given reference tone.

This final skill, which applies not only to singers but also to instrumentalists who must rely on their hearing to control the exact pitch of the notes they are playing (e.g., on woodwinds and fretless stringed instruments) is essential for musicians to be able to make music together. The different definition of the concert pitch may serve as an example, especially when performing with historical instruments .

Unlike perfect pitch , relative pitch is often found in musicians, especially those who “play by ear”. Exact relative hearing is a typical characteristic of good musicians. In contrast to perfect hearing, relative hearing can be (further) developed through ear training. Computer-assisted ear training is popular with musicians and music students, and a variety of programs are available to improve relative hearing.

Some music teachers use familiar song beginnings to make it easier for their students to hear at intervals (see ear training ), while others have melodies played by ear on a musical instrument. This is particularly useful for instruments on which, unlike e.g. B. with the piano, each tone must be generated and corrected directly and individually. Indian musicians develop relative hearing by singing at intervals over a drone . Western ear training traditionally uses solfège, or number-coded reed singing, to teach students relative hearing.

Wide intervals (larger than an octave) are often more difficult to see than simple intervals (smaller than an octave).

Interval detection is used to identify and analyze chords, and can also be used to tune an instrument to a reference tone, even if the reference tone does not match the pitch of the concert pitch.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Lee Humphries: Learning to Sight-Sing: The Mental Mechanics of Aural Imagery. (PDF) Thinking Applied No. 1, Minneapolis 2008.